National Youth Jazz Orchestra

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The British National Youth Jazz Orchestra at an event at the German Embassy in 2017.

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) is a British jazz orchestra founded in 1965 by Bill Ashton.[1] In 2010. Mark Armstrong took over as Music Director of the flagship performing band, and Artistic Director of the organisation; Bill Ashton became Life President, and Nigel Tully became Executive Chair.

Based in Westminster, London, England, NYJO started life as the London Schools' Jazz Orchestra, and evolved into becoming the national orchestra.[1] Its aims are to provide an opportunity for gifted young musicians from around the UK to perform big band jazz in major concert halls, theatres, and on radio and television, and to make recordings, commission new works from British composers and arrangers, and to introduce a love of jazz to as wide an audience as possible, but especially to schoolchildren.[1]

The performing band, NYJO, is selected by audition and invitation, and has a maximum age of 25. It performs around 40 gigs a year across the UK, the vast majority involving additional inspirational educational workshops for local schoolchildren, in partnership with the local Music Hub. It rehearses every Saturday at the London Centre of Contemporary Music, near London Bridge, London.

In 2011, a new band, NYJO London, was created to focus on developing school aged jazz musicians in greater London. In 2013, NYJO's London training and education activities were brought together under the banner of the NYJO Academy, which now includes the NYJO Academy Big Band, the NYJO Academy Jazz Ensemble, NYJO London, and the NYJO Academy Vocal Class. A small charge (£5 per session) is made for attendance.

In April 2015, NYJO became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), in recognition of its unique role as an excellent youth arts institution and its ability to inspire young people to like and enjoy jazz. At the same time NYJO acquired jazz's first ever Royal patron, the Earl of Wessex, who had seen the band perform live at Buckingham Palace in December 2014.

NYJO has an extensive discography of over 40 recordings. A new double CD album entitled NYJO FIFTY was released in late 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NYJO's formation, with guest appearances by alumnus Mark Nightingale and by Zoe Rahman and Julian Siegel, both of whom were commissioned to write new works for the album.[2]

NYJO's members have included many of the major names in British jazz over the last three decades, including Julian Argüelles, Guy Barker, Chris Biscoe, Richard James Burgess, Paul Edmonds, Teresa Gallagher, Steve Hill, David Wood, Nigel Hitchcock, Carol Kenyon, Dave O'Higgins, Simon Phillips, Gerard Presencer, Brian Priestley, Frank Ricotti, Jamie Talbot, Dave Watts, Tom Cawley, Gareth Lockrane, Harrison Wood, Louis Dowdeswell, Callum Au, Chris White, Amy Winehouse,[3] Bobby Worth[4] and Neil Yates.


  • 1971: The National Youth Jazz Orchestra - Play The Music Of Alan Cohen, Graham Collier, John Dankworth & Others
  • 1973: National Youth Jazz Orchestra
  • 1975: 11 Plus-Live At London Weekend Television
  • 1976: Return Trip
  • 1977: In Camra
  • 1978: To Russia With Jazz
  • 1979: Mary Rose
  • 1980: Down Under
  • 1980: The Sherwood Forest Suite
  • 1982: Playing Turkey
  • 1983: Why Don't They Write Songs Like This Anymore - Litsa Davies
  • 1984: Born Again - Shorty Rogers
  • 1985: Full Score
  • 1985: Concrete Cows - John Dankworth
  • 1986: With An Open Mind
  • 1987: Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra - Paul Hart, John Williams
  • 1987: Shades Of Blue & Green - with Lorraine Craig
  • 1988: Maltese Cross
  • 1989: Big Band Christmas
  • 1990: Cooking With Gas
  • 1990: Portraits - (The Music Of Harry South)
  • 1991: Remembrance
  • 1991: These are the Jokes
  • 1993: Looking Forward Looking Back
  • 1994: Hallmark
  • 1995: Cottoning On
  • 1995: In Control
  • 1996: A View From The Hill
  • 1996: Algarhythms
  • 1997: Unison In All Things
  • 1997: With One Voice
  • 1998: 47 Frith Street
  • 1999: Stepping Stones
  • 2000: Who's Blue
  • 2002: This Time Live at the Club
  • 2003: Jasmine
  • 2003: A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
  • 2004: Jazz In Film
  • 2005: Something Old Something New
  • 2005: Two Suites
  • 2006: London Pride
  • 2008: When You're Ready
  • 2009: A Christmas Carol In Six Movements
  • 2012: The Change
  • 2015: NYJO 50
  • Compilation: The Very Best Of NYJO - 4CD Set
  • Compilation: Sing A Song Of Ashton - 2CD Set


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 300/1. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ "NYJO FIFTY by The National Youth Jazz Orchestra" at Whirlwind Records.
  3. ^ Ashton, Bill "Amy Winehouse and NYJO - photos and a tribute" London Jazz News. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  4. ^ Norwich Jazz Party 2014. Profile. Archived 2013-02-07 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 15 July 2013.


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